Music from the Vikings gets into the chart with a helping hand from Huddersfield

MUSIC FROM the Viking age has made its way into the charts with the help of an expert from a Yorkshire university.
Music from the Viking age has been recreated : David Cheskin / PA.Music from the Viking age has been recreated : David Cheskin / PA.
Music from the Viking age has been recreated : David Cheskin / PA.

Huddersfield University’s Dr Rupert Till was at the controls for the recording of Ice and Longboats: Ancient Music of Scandinavia.

The music is part of a series being compiled by a £3.5m research project to explore ancient sounds.

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Combining voices with recreations of the old instruments played in the Norse lands, the recently-released disc’s haunting sounds have earned praise from reviewers, created media interest and generated sales that quickly propelled it as a new entry into the top 20 of the Official Specialist Classical Chart.

The recording was made at a church in southern Sweden by Dr Till – who is reader in music at Huddersfield University – alongside Paul Baxter, founder of Delphian Records, which has released the CD and its companion discs. Ice and Longboats is one of a sequence being produced by Dr Till, as part of his key role with the European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP). Its aims to take “the first organic journey from the sounds of prehistory through to traditions which still survive today”.

Other discs in the series have been recorded at the University of Huddersfield. They include Spellweaving, featuring the earliest-known Scottish bagpipe music; Cave Songs, featuring recreations of palaeolithic bone flutes; plus Dragon Voices, with John Kenny, who is the leading exponent of the very earliest brass instruments, including the carnyx, a large trumpet-like instrument topped by an elaborately fashioned wild boar’s head that was played across Northern Europe 2,000 years ago.

Positive reviews of Ice and Longboats have helped to propel it into the classical charts.

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This included glowing verdict from the influential Record Review, which said that hearing the series of EMAP discs produced by Dr Till was “to be transported to a different world”.

“It’s ear-opening – there are revelations here. It’s a while since anyone has tackled this ancient music with such determination and imagination over a series.”

The best-selling BBC Music Magazine has called Ice and Longboats “a delight from start to finish”, and gave it five stars.

Dr Till’s media schedule now includes an interview with Jarvis Cocker on his BBC Radio 6 music show, as well as TV and radio documentaries in the pipeline.

The disc features an instrumental group led by specialist performers on flute, lyre, horn, lur and frame drum.